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Calling all Saints and Sinners! Local churches now open to the public!

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Praise the Lord!  Red Deer’s houses of God are open for worship!

With the modification of provincial regulations for church services, many Red Deer and area churches are opening as soon as this Thursday (Lacombe) with at least one church in their third week back with live congregations.

“In this time of crisis, we have to remember that God has not stopped working,” said Pastor Garrett Gillespie of Kentwood Alliance Church.  “Churches are people, not buildings and we have not stopped serving those in need, but we are looking forward to opening up and restarting worship services in our church building.”

Like many churches, Gillespie, who also can be heard on Shine FM 90.5, has recorded his weekly sermon and an encouragement video for YouTube.

“It is amazing that we have seen people from as far away as Germany pick up on our service,” said the Pastor.  “We are able to connect with many people who would normally never come to our building and many who do attend are able to connect while not in the city.”

He noted that the move to a greater online presence had been discussed but the pandemic motivated many pastors to go online with their sermons.

“Our plan is to start services the weekend of June 21st with an upper limit of 50 people unless that is relaxed to allow a greater number,” he said.  “We will take all steps necessary to sanitize and protect everyone.”

Meanwhile, across the city at Deer Park Church, Pastor Ben Elliott has a different strategy in mind for the summer worship season.

“We have had a successful and smooth Drive-In Church service and we do not want to move inside unless we are ready for full attendance,” said Elliott.  “With the Drive-In model, we do not have to register people or limit numbers AND you can sing your heart out.  It is easier to administer from our end so we can minister to our congregation better.”

Elliott added that the relaxing of regulations will allow a modification of their outdoor service to include lawn chairs and maybe a tail gate service similar to football games.

“Along with the Drive-In service, worshipers can find our service online if they do not want to come out on Sunday or they can even attend the recording on Thursday afternoons,” he said.  “We also have a children’s segment during the sermon.”

Other initiatives planned by Deer Park staff include a virtual Vacation Bible School planned for the week of June 20 and a Fathers Day Car Show.

“As Pastor and head of the Red Deer Ministerial Association, I want to encourage my fellow pastors to seek God’s will knowing that each congregation is unique,” said Elliott.  “I look forward to what God has in store for the Church in Red Deer, knowing that He makes all things new.”

Meanwhile the Catholic Church is gearing up for celebration of Mass in both Red Deer parishes and in Lacombe, with mass starting this Thursday in Lacombe at 7 P.m.

Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s Catholic Churches will be starting Sunday Mass with 4 celebrations this weekend for up to 50 people per Mass.

“Our Church has always been open,” said Father Jan Sobkowic of Sacred Heart Parish.  “Throughout this time, we have been offering confession, adoration and helping those in need.”

Weekday masses started the week of June 1st and attendees have been thankful for the opportunity to worship.

“I am thankful we are now able to attend mass in person,” said a local senior.  “I have missed the body and Holy Communion.”

When asked about the regulations as they apply to celebration of mass, Fr. Jan said that  those wishing to attend (maximum 50) must register in advance or at the door no later than 10 minutes prior to the beginning of Mass and use hand sanitizers before entering the sanctuary and masks during communion.

Mass will be held Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at both locations with morning masses at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to Friday.

Across Red Deer at Victory Church in Oriole Park, Pastors Chuck and Joyce Roth have held services since May 24 with attendance of around 35 people per celebration.

“We have had one service going until the change in numbers allowed,” said youth leader Pauline Shattock of Victory Church.  “Now we have two services, one at 9 a.m. and another at 11 a.m.  The good thing is that we broadcast them live so if you cannot make it in person, you can watch it at home.”

She added that social distancing and sanitary requirements were being adhered to, but attendees had to register to ensure that no more than 50 people attend at any one time.

“A particularly exciting program we are starting is Victory Ninja Warrior Online on June 21st,” said Shattock.  “We have a real-life ninja teaching about the armor of God and as kids and families go through the lessons they can earn badges.”

With the program being promoted online, there are registrations worldwide due to a gentleman from Thailand who is sharing around the globe!

“During this time, we made sure we kept in touch with our congregation and when the opportunity arose to have two time slots, we made sure we did,” noted Shattock.  “With the opportunity to see friends and church family again, it has been very encouraging and life changing for everyone.”

Out of Red Deer, Clive Baptist Church is planning 3 services for 50 worshippers in addition to their online presence.  Prior to their three services, they, like Deer Park held a successful Drive-In style church celebration in the village.

Torrington Evangelical Lutheran Church

South west of Red deer, Pastor Nick Wasylowich of Torrington Evangelical Lutheran Church has planned a street service for June 7 in the hamlet.

“Depending on the weather, we will celebrate the Lord in our streets,” said Wasylowich.  “We will have parking attendants helping folks park appropriately and we will allow worshipers to stand beside outside their vehicle and praise their Saviour.”

With the situation and regulations for churches changing so quickly, and the possibility of the moving up of phase two (and increased attendance numbers), larger churches are unusually at a disadvantage as smaller churches and congregations are able to respond quickly to the opening up of regulations and comply more easily.

Throughout the Central Alberta region, churches who have not gone to live services, continue to offer online sermons and resources through their respective websites.

Pastor Gillespie summed up the present situation in a simple statement; “We have to remember that God is still working no matter what happens around us and told to trust him and live in faith not fear.”

Writers Note:  If your church wants to tell your Covid 19 story, contact me at [email protected] and we can give God the glory!

Tim Lasiuta is a Red Deer writer, entrepreneur and communicator. He has interests in history and the future for our country.

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Smiles Thru Lindsey reaching out with a new video message and urging Albertans to look out for each other at this challenging time

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The holiday season is well behind us, we’re heading into the coldest part of the winter, and although the days are starting to grow longer there’s still a definite lack of daylight in our lives.  The winter blues are a real thing and this year we have COVID, a whole new serious problem to add to our mental health issues.

COVID is also the reason the Smiles Thru Lindsey team has not been able do public events for many months.  Unable to reach out physically through school visits and fund raisers, Smiles Thru Lindsey is reminding Central Albertans to check in on each other.  Also, please follow the Smiles Thru Lindsey Facebook page .  They’ll lead you to the resources you or your loved ones need right away.

Meet Lindsey and the Smiles Thru Lindsey team in this powerful video.  …And remember to check in on the people in your life.

If you’d like to help Smiles Thru Lindsey with a donation please click here.

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Hope, Faith and Love:  the Music Ministry of Gerard Renaud

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“I feel more alive today in God than I did 20 years ago,” said Gerard Renaud in the Red Deer Sacred Heart sanctuary.

The musician and worship leader had been asked by Shalom World, an international Catholic Ministry network with programs ranging from daily mass to talk shows, to provide worship music and meditations in 2019 but God had other plans.

“Shalom had come to Red Deer and put on a weekend at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and I had attended as I had never been to one before,” said Renaud.  “They needed a guitarist, so I helped out and tailored my song choice to the theme of the weekend and they liked that.  Many of the international leaders were here and they invited me to be part of their Dallas event.  “

Renaud recalled that God had other plans as there were glitches in registration, so the Dallas trip was cancelled. Instead, he went to Vancouver to visit family and while he was there, he was part of 4 events with healings, music ministry and more members of Shalom management met with him!

Fast forward one year.

Early this Fall, Shalom came calling, this time they asked for two short devotions for Rejoice, one of which has already been posted (The Great Commission) and a second on Advent (Due December 18).

Communicating the grace and love of God has always been foremost in Renaud’s’ life.

“When I was a young man my family lived in Maple Ridge, BC, and I learned to play the guitar when I was nine years old on a 1965 Fender,” remembered Renaud.  “My dad taught me 3 chords  in 1974. I credit God with giving me the talent to lean how to play and three months later, my family was the choir at St. Pats and we changed the music style to be more Avant Garde and by the time we changed churches 4 years later, church attendance was up even at the early masses.”

By 1977 his family was playing up to 140 times a year in prisons, churches, and seniors’ homes.

“Wherever we were wanted, we played,” he said.  “The most memorable show we ever did was in 1977 at Alouette which was a medium security prison in Maple Ridge.  There were close to 200 inmates and we played during a prayer service and afterwards, we put on our regular show.  We played all kinds of music, There were not many at the service, but when we started to sing our standard set everyone left, and we were wondering what happened.  Not long later, we packed the chapel, and every wall was full!”

He noted that as a young boy of 12 he was singing ‘Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,’ and laughed about it.  “What does a 12-year old boy know about wasted days?  But, while we entertained our audiences, we ended up with an acapella Amazing Grace that had people in tears seeking the forgiveness of God.”

Experiences like that shaped his family’s music and ministry.

His spiritual journey is not restricted to music but also includes counseling and leading healing masses world-wide, a ministry that Sacred Heart has embraced for close to 3 years.

“When we had our first healing Mass in Red Deer more than 200 people came up for prayer,” he remembered smiling.  “Father Tom, priest at the time, called him over and asked him a simple question, ‘Where did these people come from?’ I told Fr. Tom that if we hold one, they will come and they did.”

Looking over the sanctuary, he continued to speak.

“But you have to remember that the Holy Spirit only moves like that after great prayer and humility, and we had spent 6 months praying every week for that,” he said.  “All I did was to be obedient and do my part.  When I ministered in India, the same thing happened.  Over a couple of months, I led worship and prayed for thousands of people, some of whom I keep in contact with!  God is amazing.”

When Shalom came calling, Renaud knew he had to let God speak.

The Great Commission | Gerard Renaud (shalomworld.org)

“My heart is evangelism, and I knew I had to challenge my audience with both a strong message and a powerful song so I chose ‘What will you do with the time you have left,’” he said.  “We filmed it at Sacred Heart and after their editing, it debuted in early December.”

He was not prepared for the impact his segment would have.

“One of the people of Shalom contacted me and told me that it had been posted in 4 countries and they had been receiving comments from Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States,” he noted.  “Not only that, but even in this parish, the response from my fellow believers is amazing with people wanting to help.  Our parish priest, Father Jann wants us to produce a series of videos on faith, doctrine, and the gospels.  We are looking into equipment to help us live stream and work on our video ministry, all because of an invitation from Shalom.”

Looking up at the cross, Renaud concluded with a simple statement, “If God asks something of you, do not walk away, but be obedient.  The rewards will be worth every sacrifice.”

Renaud leads worship at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass.

 

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january, 2021

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